Gig review: CORNBURY Music Festival – The Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire, 8-10 July 2022

Friday 8 July

So good to be back at Cornbury as it has been three long years since the last one. Sadly this year’s is billed as the Last Hurrah, although the organiser Hugh has said that before…

Tears in the old eyes as I entered the festival site. Just so good to see people enjoying themselves and the sunny weather certainly helps.

Those camping have spectacular views of the rolling Oxfordshire countryside. Not for this intrepid reviewer though as Cub Scouts gave me more than enough experience of camping.

Amy Montgomery had the tough task to open the main stage. Backed by a four piece band dressed in white, Amy Montgomery is all you want from a festival opener – lively tunes and an energetic stage presence.

Amy Montgomery, CORNBURY Music Festival - The Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire, 8 July 2022

Pretty rocking set which got a good reception from the crowd. Adding a well known cover to your set always helps. In Amy’s case she ripped through a rocked up version of Donna Summer classic ‘I Feel Love’. Impressive stuff and the first Cornbury discovery to win me over.

Stone Foundation added a little bit of late afternoon funk and soul over on the Songbird stage. Enjoyable hour spent listening to their mainly self penned set of songs. They added a bit of punch with a live horns section – no backing tracks for these guys. They have been around since the late 90s and it shows in their slick set which got a rousing reception from the crowd.

Food and drink are always a key element of any festival. Cornbury has a good range, including Waitrose which is hardly surprising as the festival is sometimes known as Poshstock! Caffè Nero is always a welcome treat and they also host a number of artists in their tent throughout the weekend.

The Shires are a Cornbury staple having appeared here in 2019 and 2016. Plugging a new album the lead single ‘I See Stars’ has a nice bit of country pop bite. ‘All Over Again’ is another good summery afternoon tune and their country pop proves ever popular with the crowd.

The Darkness - CORNBURY Music Festival - The Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire, 8 July 2022

Strange seeing The Darkness take to the stage in daylight and at the early time of seven thirty. Kicking off with ‘Growing On Me’, Justin Hawkins and his band mates seemed set on a whistle stop tour through their greatest hits in the hour allotted to them.

‘One Way Ticket’ was next with bassist Frankie Poullin on cowbell. First of their set’s covers came next with The Darkness take on the Radiohead classic ‘Fade Out (Street Spirit)’. Back to their debut album for a trio of classics – ‘Givin Up’, ‘Love Is Only A Feeling’ and ‘Friday Night’. Justin Hawkins is the consummate rock n roll front man romping around the stage, playing guitar solos and hitting those high notes.

Newer songs next with ‘Heart Explodes’, one of their better recent tunes, and ‘Solid Gold’. The latter may have seen a dip in the crowds enthusiasm but that was quickly restored by ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman’.

The Darkness know the festival trick, keep to the more well known songs and interact with the crowd as much as possible. Speaking of audience participation ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ had the Cornbury crowd clapping, dancing and bouncing about.

The Darkness - CORNBURY Music Festival - The Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire, 8 July 2022

No encore so in true Darkness style we had a Christmas medley starting off with their seasonal hit ‘Christmas Time’, followed by a crowd sing a long to the Wham! classic ‘Last Christmas’ and finishing with a bit of Cliff Richard. Possibly a strange way to end a set on a sunny July evening but they pulled it off.

Magic Numbers - CORNBURY Music Festival - The Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire, 8 July 2022

After all that rock n roll fun the Magic Numbers bring things down a bit tempo wise headlining the Songbird stage. Plagued by a few sound issues early on in their set they soon hit their musical stride. Their jangly guitar and beautiful harmony vocals are a perfect way to enjoy Friday evening at Cornbury.

I think it’s safe to say that we had a pretty fantastic final weekend. Thank God for the weather and huge thanks to you all for your support.

Thank you for all the hundreds of kind messages you’ve sent – they are all very much appreciated. With your help we’ve been able to create a rather unique little event that we’ve all come to love. After a two year absence it was really lovely to be reunited with my very special team and to have one more opportunity to produce this festival for you.

I’m afraid this was definitely the final Cornbury Festival. You never know, we may see you somewhere down the road, but in the meantime please take good care of yourselves.

Hugh Phillimore

Saturday 9 July

Sunshine is out again for the Saturday of Cornbury’s Final Hurrah.

Toby Lee wows the Songbird stage with his blues guitar playing. He’s been mentioned as a future blues star by Joe Bonamasa and judging by this afternoon’s performance he’s definitely a musician to keep tabs on. Soulful playing and singing one minute, then ripping it up on a frenzied solo. Impressive start to today’s musical treats.

Reggae with a touch of ska on a sunny afternoon always goes well, so Captain Accident & the Disasters are onto a winner from the off. Not this reviewers musical bag but they are good and a pleasant way to spend an hour in the sunshine.

Beans On Toast sets the world to rights with his positive take on the negativity world around us. Done in an almost rap style at times, he adds a bit of the here and now to the festival.

The Caffè Nero tent always has a few treats including the (mainly) covers by the lively young three piece Molotovs. Bashing through the likes Teenage Kicks, C’Mon Everybody, Suffragette City and Anarchy In The UK, Molotovs are a cracking covers band. They have that raw, punk rock spirit which was great to see and hear. One for any upcoming punk and alt rock festival methinks.

The Molotovs - CORNBURY Music Festival - The Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire, 9 July 2022

Andy Fairweather-Low sounds pretty darn fine in the evening sun and attracts one of the biggest crowds of the weekend at the Songbird stage. Wheeling out the 60s hits from Amen Corner – the band he helped found – ‘Bend Me, Shape Me’ and ‘If Paradise Half As Nice’ – sealed the deal as far as the crowd were concerned. He may not play live that often but when he does get along and see him.

The Waterboys played to a packed main arena. One tiny gripe has to be the sheer number of chairs, which often lie forlorn and abandoned when an artist is one the stage. Chair manufacturers will be posting bumper profits this year based on Cornbury alone…

Anyway, back to the music where The Waterboys had played arguably their most famous song, ‘Whole of the Moon’ fourth song in. A brave move possibly? Not for Mike Scott and the boys as they have musical class and treats galore. A classic like ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ sits nicely with a newer song ‘Blackberry Girl’.

Good to see saxophonist Anthony Thistle Thwaite back in the band, who have had over seventy members pass through their ranks to date.

The Waterboys played a good set, however, they seemed to lack that extra bit of sparkle I was hoping for from their set.

Saturday night’s headliner Bryan Adams is in the middle of a series of outdoor concerts and he’s a perfect festival headliner with his catalogue of well-known classics. Having said that after the recorded John Cleese intro Bryan launched into a newer one ‘Kick Ass’. A perfect rocker to launch the crowd off into an almost non-stop night of singing and dancing.

Rolling out some of the big guns song wise early with ‘Can’t Stop This Thing We Started’ and ‘Somebody’. The set did nearly come to a premature halt due to sound issues but luckily these were soon sorted.

Bryan Adams - CORNBURY Music Festival - The Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire, 9 July 2022

‘Shine A Ligh’t, then ‘Heaven’ kept the momentum going with one of his best newer tunes, ‘Go Down Rockin’g giving guitarist Keith Scott a chance to take the limelight.

Those hits keep on coming with’ It’s Only Love’, sadly no Tina Turner despite Bryan Adams teasing she was just off stage waiting to come on.

The acoustic interlude of ‘Here I Am’ and ‘When You’re Gone’ may have seen a slight dip in audience participation, but the number one hit ‘Everything I D’o had the Cornbury choir in full voice.

The rocking was back with ‘Back To You’ and those familiar chords that ushered in ‘Summer Of 69′. Serious amounts of air guitarists and dad dancers to be seen!

Bryan Adams - CORNBURY Music Festival - The Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire, 9 July 2022

‘Cuts Like A Knife’ closed the set before we had an encore of ‘Run To You’ and ‘All For Love’. He’s still got that magic and enthusiasm he had when I first saw him live way back in 1988.

Jason Ritchie chatted to local musician Tom Webber at Cornbury

Sunday 10 July

The final day of this year’s Cornbury and indeed the last ever Cornbury, so a day tinged with sadness but many happy musical memories.

High noon start for Didcot’s rising star Tom Webber, who was fresh from supporting Tom Jones on Friday and Readipop Festival yesterday.

Nick Lowe cover and the wonderful song that is ‘Martha’ were stand outs in a set that definitely saw him win over even more new fans. Closing a short half hour set with new song, ‘I’m Yours’, he got the crowd joining in on the chorus. He’s growing in stage presence and confidence each time I see him. Next festival season he will be higher up the bills that’s a given.

Altered Images get the Cornbury crowd going on the hottest afternoon yet of the weekend. How can you not like an upbeat 80s banger like ‘I Could Be Happy’? Yes indeed, Clare Grogan is in fine form and even better news is that there is a new Altered Images album on the horizon…a mere thirty eight years since the last one!

‘Insects’ she dedicated to John Peel who gave Altered Images their big break. From the old to the new with ‘Glittterball’, a nifty little pop number.

Only one song could close the set, ‘Happy Birthday’, which made a couple of birthday celebrants in the crowd happy having their names read out by Clare.

A poptastic way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Staks with their soulful R&B are a prefect fit for a sunny Sunday afternoon and they are a top notch set of musicians including drummer Mike Sturgis (21 Guns, Adrian Smith).  FM’s Steve Overland duetting with Madeline Bell on ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’. That’s a pretty perfect match right there.

Staks played the first Cornbury, with a couple in between and it was fitting that they made it to the main stage on the final day of the festival. What a treat too for both the band and the crowd to have Steve Winwood on for a short set. One of the weekend’s real wow moments.

One of the band’s founding members Louise Marshall came on for a soulful take on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Proud Mary’ (also made famous by Tina Turner), before she introduced a proper musical legend. The word legendary is bandied around a lot and not always with good reason, however, Steve Winwood is a true music legend.

His own hit ‘Higher Love’ proved a hit with the crowd as you’d expect, yet it was his heartfelt rendition of ‘Whiter Shade Of Pale’ dedicated to Gary Brooker that stole the set. He still has those wonderful vocals. Those distinctive organ notes ushered in ‘Gimme Some Lovin’, a song that still sounds great all these years later.

Ronan Keating is not normally an artist I would listen to but fair play to him as he did a crowd pleasing set and what a festival is all about, singing along and enjoying the music.

Singing along is easy as he does many standards such as Cat Stevens’ ‘Father and Son’, Billy Ocean’s ‘When The Going Gets Tough’ and ‘Brown Eyed Girl’. Even Boyzone’s ‘No Matter What’ had this old rocker tapping his feet along to the music. He really enjoyed himself  being so happy to be back on stage having originally been booked for 2020′s festival.

Final band of the weekend for this reviewer saw a second time this year seeing The Christians. They took to stage half an hour later at eight as Ronan Keating had extended his set by half an hour, something singer Garry Christian joked about at the start of their set.

Keeping to the hits in their one hour set we had ‘Ideal World’, ‘Born Again’, ‘Forgotten Town’ and ‘When the Fingers Point’. They are spot on with the vocal harmonies and musicianship, which is some feat on such a hot evening.

A great idea to include the Beatles classic ‘Here Comes the Sun’ which Garry Christian dedicated to George Harrison, who he said was one of his all time favourite songwriters. Totally agree with that sentiment.

It seemed an all too brief set as after ‘Hooverille’ they closed  with The Isley Brothers cover ‘Harvest For The World’. One of the many Cornbury highlights this weekend and a prefect musical high to finish on.

If this indeed was the final Cornbury (rumours that it may comeback next year but at a different location & organisers) they went out on a high. One of the best music festivals I have had the pleasure of attending. Well organised, friendly staff on site, reasonably priced on the whole and above all a good mix of music.

Cornbury you will be missed, please come back soon…

Review by Jason Ritchie
Photos by Dave Grant

Josh Taerk’s latest Sunday Session was streamed on Sunday 17 July.

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Power Plays w/c 8 August 2022 (Mon-Fri)
BORN LOST Take Time (Mouthpiece) (Revolver Records)
JAIME KYLE Driving With The Brakes On (Conquest Music)
SCARLET DORN Born To Suffer (SPV Recordings)
HOLDING ABSENCE Coffin (Sharptone Records)
TYRANNOSAURUS NEBULOUS Get Some (Echoed Past Records)
KROOKED TONGUE When The Beaches Bleed (indie)
SKYPILOT Knifed On The Beach (The Distortion Project)

Featured Albums w/c 8 August (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 LESSMAN VOSS Rock Is Our Religion (Atomic Fire Records)
12:00-13:00 H.E.A.T. Force Majeure (earMUSIC)
14:00-16:00 THE SLAMBOVIAN CIRCUS OF DREAMS A Very Unusual Head (indie)

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